Deal­ing With Catas­tro­phe

Forced to flee Har­vey, an ad­vi­sor gets a re­minder that the peo­ple he serves are a lot more than just names and num­bers.

Financial Planning - - CONTENT - By Jonathan Swan­burg

Forced to flee Har­vey, an ad­vi­sor gets a re­minder that the peo­ple he serves are more than just names and num­bers.

IT WAS ALL VERY SUR­REAL. ON FRI­DAY NIGHT, AS Hur­ri­cane Har­vey rav­aged my Hous­ton neigh­bor­hood with driv­ing rain, a tor­nado came down and missed my home by a few blocks. On Satur­day, parts of Hous­ton started to flood. On Sun­day, the wa­ters of the rivers and bay­ous around the area started to rise.

Thou­sands of peo­ple were trapped in their homes and were left to pray that they’d be res­cued. I wanted to help some­one, any­one, but the au­thor­i­ties told ev­ery­one to stay off the roads.

So, I sat on my couch and watched it all on tele­vi­sion. Then the per­son on the TV said I had to leave. The Bra­zos River was ris­ing and by Tues­day, it was go­ing to spill over the tops of the levee into Si­enna Plan­ta­tion — my sub­urb of roughly 16,000 peo­ple just to the south­west of Hous­ton.

I packed my preg­nant wife, two boys (ages 4 and 2) and a very an­gry cat into the car, and headed to my fa­ther-in-law’s house in Sugar Land. (My fa­ther-in-law also hap­pens to be the pres­i­dent of my RIA, Tri-star Ad­vi­sors.) As we got ev­ery­one into bed, we re­ceived an alert telling us that this house had been added to the long list of manda­tory evac­u­a­tions.

So, we packed up again and ended up at the home of my wife’s sis­ter, Rox­anne, and her hus­band, Phil. It was only about five min­utes away from my in-laws, but the flood map said we would be safer there.

In our haste, I for­got to turn off the power and for­got tons of im­por­tant pa­pers. Although I’m an ad­vi­sor, I’m not im­mune to for­get­ting a few things in times of cri­sis — no mat­ter what I tell my clients. The next time the fore­cast calls for record flood­ing, I will be pre­par­ing my im­por­tant doc­u­ments and leav­ing town be­fore the rain starts.


This ex­pe­ri­ence helped me re­al­ize that I love my clients and many of them love me. When I sent out an email on Fri­day morn­ing pray­ing for our clients’ fam­i­lies and ex­plain­ing the firm’s con­tin­gency plans for flood­ing and loss of power, none re­sponded on the busi­ness is­sues at hand. In­stead, they all ex­pressed con­cern for my team and our fam­i­lies.

Th­ese clients aren’t just port­fo­lios and fi­nan­cial plans. Th­ese are the peo­ple I in­ter­act with on a daily ba­sis. They have told me their hopes, their dreams and their fears; have trusted me with their fu­tures; and, through our ad­vi­sory re­la­tion­ship, have learned ev­ery­thing about me and have grown to truly care about my fam­ily.

On Mon­day morn­ing, when I sent an email up­dat­ing our sta­tus to clients, they of­fered my fam­ily their homes, food and cloth­ing. My fam­ily is safe and my clients have told me that ev­ery­thing will be OK. And they are right.

Un­for­tu­nately, most fam­i­lies in Hous­ton do not have flood in­sur­ance and are go­ing to be strug­gling for a very long time. Our firm is there­fore of­fer­ing free fi­nan­cial plan­ning as­sis­tance to any­one in the area who needs it. Many fam­i­lies will prob­a­bly need as­sis­tance deal­ing with FEMA and in­sur­ance com­pa­nies, or just some ba­sic guid­ance for get­ting through a fi­nan­cial dis­as­ter.

Ul­ti­mately, while Har­vey was a catas­tro­phe for mil­lions of peo­ple, it was also a re­minder that at its best, fi­nan­cial plan­ning is a uniquely per­sonal busi­ness built around won­der­ful peo­ple and life­long re­la­tion­ships.

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